Virginia Beach veteran says she was scammed out of GI Bill benefits

Higher learning important for service members
Posted at 12:55 PM, Jan 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-19 17:12:56-05

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Jonelle Daugherty, a veteran from Virginia Beach, said she was scammed by the online university the University of Arizona Global Campus. UAGC was formerly under the name the University of the Rockies, then Ashford University.

Like many veterans and service members across the country, Daugherty said she enrolled with the expectation that she would get a good education.

In 2014 she began pursuing a Ph.D. in sports and performance psychology. She said she told the recruiter that she had already used most of her GI Bill for her bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

"With that knowledge, the school promised me that they would provide Yellow Ribbon and other funding to make up for any shortfall after my GI Bill was used up. This promise played a significant role in my decision to go to the University of the Rockies, because I was concerned about financing my Ph.D.," Daugherty said.

However, she said the GI Bill only covered two classes and she was forced to take out student loans. Eight years later she said she's still in school with more than $200,000 in debt.

"Although the school told me they would provide all necessary resources for my dissertation, they have fallen short in every possible way. My school has not provided feedback on my writing, and instead, told me to hire a professional editor to review my work. Besides having access to the school library, I am practically left on my own to work on my dissertation," she said.

In an effort to resolve these issues Daugherty reached out to Veterans Education Success, an organization that advocates for veterans' careers and education.

"We have gotten complaints from many, many veterans from at least 10, significantly large for-profit institutions, that many veterans are not really being told the truth," said Chris Madaio, the vice president for legal affairs at Veterans Education Success.

He said the problem is what's called the 90/10 loophole.

"It says that for-profit colleges have to have at least have 10% of their total revenue from non-federal money," Madaio said. "Here's the loophole: veterans' dollars, GI Bill dollars, did not count in federal dollars, so they counted as the 10% money that was 'other' that was supposed to be non-federal dollars. That's ridiculous because obviously, GI Bill is federal money."

The Department of Education has taken steps to close the loophole. Congress passed the new law back in March, when they also passed the American Rescue Plan. Veterans and advocates said more still needs to be done, which is why they are testifying before the Department of Education this week.

"Students are a critical voice to come forward and say, 'I have been hurt by the status quo,'" Madaio said.

These experiences shouldn't scare military members from pursuing higher education, just encourage them to be a little more cautious when researching where to attend.

Madaio said there are red flags that people can look out for:

  • No data to support graduation rates, graduate career successes
  • High tuition, low earnings
  • Pressure from recruiters to act quickly

Madaio went on to say, "[Recruiters] put pressure on [the potential student]. They talk about how, you know, your GI bill is going to cover everything when it often doesn't. At some of these for-profit schools, their tuition is very high, especially for the low quality of education that they're getting."

For-profit colleges deny that their acceptances hurt students, and said that if new regulations are put in place in 2023, it could be more difficult to recruit veterans.

The national hearing before the Department of Education will be taking place until Friday. Daugherty will speak at 4 p.m. on Wednesday. You can watch online by registering here.

When it comes to a timeline, discussions will take place within the Department of Education in January and by spring or summer, likely March, they will draft any proposed regulations. Then legislators will open the floor for written comment.

Madaio said he is hopeful by November 1, a rule will be written and it can go into effect by July 1, 2023.